The Funhouse fortunately has nothing to do with the 1990’s kid show of the same name.
Instead it tells the tale of a group of four unfortunate, horny teens who stumble upon something unsavoury when looking for thrills at their local carnival – which happens to be the only place that their parents don’t want them to go to. And who could blame them when the festival of fun does have a habit of attracting unsavoury characters and even murder!
The carnival has everything that you’d ever want in a weird travelling show: freaks, rides, games and dancing girls. But the best thing there by far has to be the Funhouse. It’s basically the best ghost train that you could possibly imagine – times two.
It may be a travelling show, but that hasn’t prevented the father and son team that own the ride from building the most complex and amazing attraction.
Visitors are taken on a cart through different worlds – each with a unique theme and props that would make most hollywood film sets look sloppy. Best of all lots of it is real, like the weapons in the medieval section, which come in handy later on in the film.
Amy, her boyfriend Buzz and their friends Liz and Richie make the most of their evening, sampling each of the wonderfully weird delights on offer. But as the carnival winds down and the visitors leave, they decide that their appetite for adventure still isn’t satisfied.
Should they move on to the cinema?
The diner for a shake and a slice of cherry pie?
Nope, it’s back to the Funhouse to stay the night. Hopping onto the carts for one last ride, they disembark deep inside the maze-like attraction and jump straight on top of each other.
The passion is killed somewhat when they witness one of the carnies committing a horrible act and soon they’re running for their lives, trapped in the big freaky complex with inbred, dribbling killers stalking them.
Tobe Hooper’s Funhouse isn’t nearly as terrifying as his previous masterpiece, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. In fact there is very little similarity between the films apart from the use of disturbing rednecks to create unease. There is of course the group of teens, who have similar intentions to those in TCM: these kids smoke weed, constantly want sex and like to make fun of the weird locals and as a result are doomed.
The idea of using a carnival as the setting for the tale is simple enough. The strange shows and attractions leave the kids in a state of arousal, scared but desperate to find more thrills and heighten the sense of excitement.
And trapped in the funhouse, faced with the prospect of being killed by one of the disturbing props or the owners of the rise, the teens have trouble coming to terms with the gravity of the situation. Is any of it real?
The Funhouse looks good and ticks all of the 1980’s horror film boxes. It’s curious, creepy, bloody, sexy and a little bit confusing. Explanations are kept to a minimum, dialogue is simple and the acting is basic.
It’s some way short of terrifying and doesn’t hold the appeal of many of the other fantastic and original horrors of its time. But The Funhouse does entertain and certainly deserves to be appreciated by a wider audience – particularly now that it’s looking better than ever on Blu Ray.